In André Franquin’s Spirou album “Panade à Champignac”, automotive enthusiast and collector Comte Adhémar des Mares-en-Trombe suffers a bitter loss when his mint-condition 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K is stolen. With his baggy cardigan and pipe, the Count strikes a rather less aristocratic figure than his title suggests – but in his love for classic automobiles he positively oozes class and polish. His passion for vintage cars is highlighted when he tells a friend and fellow nobleman about the theft, recounting how the shining light of his collection had been spirited away. Of course, the climax to the book sees the Count reunited with his red roadster with light-colored roof and white-walled tires – thanks to amateur detectives Spirou and Fantasio. One memorable scene is set in the courtyard of the Count’s estate, where the mechanics are hard at work maintaining and polishing the collection of historical cars.
The Count in the fictional village of Champignac is not the only classic car owner to discover that vintage car collections also attract the attention of more unscrupulous enthusiasts. The father of British secret agent Percy Pickwick also falls victim to car theft, when his classic MG goes missing. When Pickwick junior and senior eventually apprehend the thief in Turk and de Groot’s story “Roue Libre”, it turns out that he has not only made off with Britain’s finest, but also a magnificent Mercedes-Benz 770. Produced from 1930, the W 07 was better known as the “Super Mercedes”.
The mysterious Démonia in the Benoît Brisefer story “Le fétiche” is chauffeured around in a cabriolet version of this renowned model. Given the shady activities of her gang, readers of Peyo’s adventure could be forgiven for thinking that this beige and black classic had also been stolen from a collection.
The 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K depicted by Jean Graton in his Michel Vaillant story “L’affaire Bugatti” is rather more above-board – the white roadster is part of the Schlumpf Collection at the National Automobile Museum of France. For all visitors to the Museum, the Mercedes-Benz represents a milestone in the “wonderful history of the automobile”. Racing driver Steve Warson and his family would certainly agree, as they feast their eyes on the Stuttgart-built roadster. Whether it be here or under the drooling gaze of Scrooge McDuck, Daimler-Benz is recognized as a pioneer of automotive development. Graton mixes this historical side of the story with a passion for the technical wizardry underpinning the automobile on display at the museum.